Is responsibility an obstacle for freedom?

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    When talking about freedom, you mentioned responsibility. Isn’t responsibility an obstacle for freedom?


    To answer your question, we need to understand four things: freedom, responsibility, control and discipline. 
    Generally, freedom is thought of as doing whatever we please without any sort of limitation. We believe that freedom is to be unrestrained in making choices and decisions. Such a notion ignores the responsibility that is implied by freedom. As the argentine Jorge Bucay said: “The true seeker grows and learns, and discovers he is always the principal responsible of what is happening.” Bucay is right, the freedom to take conscious decisions will always be followed by responsibility. Freedom is responsibility and vice versa. George Bernard Shaw said “liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” Responsibility consists in consciously taking on the consequences of our choices. 
    We must clearly understand that a conditioned mind lacks freedom. Such a mind can perhaps dream about being free, but it will only respond out of its conditioning. Freedom, however, does not consist in indiscriminately responding to all our mental and emotional demands.
    Not in vain Rousseau said “Man is the freest creature that I know… pity he is always found in chains.” From within our oppression yearning for freedom arises. Said desires are not for freedom, but to escape oppression. We think that if the oppressing element vanishes we shall be free. Hence, our attention is focused on the chains, on what we desire to liberate from, rather than on freedom itself. 
    Now we should understand what is responsibility. Most people relate it with duty. We think that to be responsible is to fulfill our duties seriously and diligently. We relate responsibility with our obligations and we dim ourselves responsible for the results of their execution. 
    This is idea is both partial and superficial. The deeper meaning of the term responsibility comes from the Latin responsum, which is the ability to respond. If we live like sleepwalkers, we cannot respond properly. 
    Responsibility means to respond appropriately, with all our capacity, to the events that happen in life. If we were responsible, we would not need laws, judges, or police. In order to maintain the order in a society made of immature people, states are obligated to take control. A higher state of consciousness would allow adequately responding to life and making this world into a paradise.
    Every moment and situation constitutes a call, which requires a response that will satisfy the demands of life. Unfortunately, many such invitations remain without an answer because we are not present. Due to our conditioning, we are situated in our past and its nostalgias, or in the future with its hopes. We are absent from the present and reality. We suffer because we cannot adequately respond to life’s invitations. No one, in the entire universe, can respond as only we would. But in order to respond in our own unique style, we have to transcend the conditioning and recover our ability of listening. 
    The Sanskrit term sravana means “to listen”. Listening with precision requires silence. It is impossible to talk and at the same time to perceive what the speaker is communicating. As the silence intensifies, the attention heightens. Sravana requires creating an internal quietness that is more than absence of noises, it is silence from presuppositions, concepts, conclusions and mental fluctuations. 
    Clearly, the first step in the spiritual path is the cultivation of receptivity. Cultivate listening: when you have a doubt related to your health, listen to your body; when you dither over what direction you should take in life, listen carefully to existence in the depth of your heart. Those who cultivate the art of receptive and alert listening will find silence and peace. The quality of responding will be possible only if we are consciously present in the now. Inner responsibility is born from our harmony with the present. Responding appropriately requires being in tune with the now. 
    Responsibility is discipline. By learning something we respond, and by responding we learn. For example, when we learn to ride a bicycle we respond. If the bicycle is leaning left, we adjust toward the right and vice versa. With a lot of attention, observation and presence, we respond to the different situations that the process requires. Responsibility is discipline, the response is learning. It is impossible to separate responsibility from learning.
     When we notice unacceptable, undesirable or indecent inclinations in ourselves, we try to repress them by exercising control. However, the motivation for this resistance continues being an egotistic evaluation based on our personal conveniences. The ego phenomenon becomes a controlling ego, but an ego none the less. Even our ambition for freedom falls into this category. But this control, or misunderstood discipline, will not help us to eliminate those inclinations, but only to repress them. Repressive control creates a conflict between ‘what I am’ and ‘what I should be’; between ‘what I see’ and ‘what I should be seeing’. By hiding one’s internal conflict, such a controlled being becomes hardened, atrophied and agility is lost. One’s undesirable inclinations continue to live and move in the interior, though repressed and restricted.

    “You are still not free, you seek freedom. Your seeking made you sleep deprived and over-awake. You aspire to the free heights, your soul thirsts for the stars. But your wicked instincts also thirst for freedom. Your wild dogs want to get free; they bark with joy in their cellar when your spirit endeavors to open all prison doors. To me you are still a prisoner who imagines his freedom. Alas, the soul of such prisoners grows clever, but also deceptive and wicked. The one who is free of spirit must still purify himself. Much prison and mold is left in him: his eyes must still become pure.”
    Thus Spoke Zaratustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

    Control paralyzes certain inclinations and produces habits; it transforms living beings into robots, and destroys intelligence and creativity. Obviously, freedom cannot be acquired through control. Control contracts us, it pushes us to determined actions and deepens our conditioning. And from conditioning, whether it is positive or negative, we cannot be free. To reach freedom, responsibility, we need sensitivity. Sensitivity is not cultivated by control but by discipline. Therefore, it is essential to separate the terms discipline and control, even if they sound similar, they are diametrically different. 
    The word discipline comes from the Latin discipulus, which in turn, comes from discere or disco, which means “one who learns” or “has a learning disposition.” People relate discipline with control. However, these two are totally different. Control consists in a series of laws and regulations, but discipline is born from understanding and consciousness. Many people think that it is necessary to dominate the animalistic nature, but control is part of the egoist phenomenon; 
    Control assaults our nature, while discipline flourishes from consciousness. 
    A free being, and therefore, a responsible one, does not require control. Only the irresponsible and immature needs to be controlled. Those who are free are conscious of the needs of others as well as their own; hence, they do not need control. The unconscious and irresponsible need to be controlled because they lack the sensibility to respond to existence. Conscious beings are disciplined, but free from control. They live awake like a seagull that flies very high, fully free, without rules or regulations.
    Now we shall examine the relation between freedom, discipline and responsibility. Discipline, in its true meaning, is learning. Not in the sense of accumulating knowledge or information, but in perceiving and observing what is, as it is. In order to learn it is necessary to be completely free of all accumulated information about the learned. Otherwise, instead of observing what is as it is, we project the known on the object of learning. We don’t observe reality, but what we perceive according to our conditioning. To learn, the freedom to perceive and observe is essential. If we wish to study ourselves, we must be free of any belief, concept or conclusion about what we are. This learning is responsibility, because it is the response to existence.

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